Wollaston mum facing nightmare in headstone row

Stourbridge News: Laura and Sue Johnson at Holy Trinity Church in Amblecote Buy this photo Laura and Sue Johnson at Holy Trinity Church in Amblecote

A WOLLASTON mum has vowed to face the nightmare of reburying her son rather than sacrifice a headstone bearing his image.

Adam Johnson, aged 22, died in a car accident last year and his bereaved mother has been told his gravestone, at Holy Trinity Church in Amblecote, in unacceptable and will have to be replaced.

The stone contains a portrait of father-of-one Adam, which breaches church rules but his shocked mother, Sue Johnson, says the family was given no guidance and she is prepared to endure the pain of exhuming Adam's remains in her battle to keep the stone.

Sue Johnson, aged 45, from Meriden Avenue, said: "We are fighting to keep the headstone there, if it came to it I would have Adam dug up and buried somewhere else - that's how strongly I feel.

"I saw other headstones with portraits on so that gave me the idea, I am so angry, there are no guidelines, we were never told there are rules when you have your loved one buried."

Adam's sister, Laura, aged 25, added: "Everybody is distressed and upset, when my mum found out she was taken into hospital with heart problems.

"We feel disturbing the memorial is disrespectful and insensitive, a lot of people think it is disgusting that they want us to remove the gravestone."

Problems began after stone masons J & A Memorials accidentally sent a design of the gravestone which did not contain a portrait for approval by the church.

When the stone with the etched image of Adam was installed, the church immediately insisted it should be removed within 28 days.

Stourbridge MP Margot James is supporting the family, who have already gathered around 300 names on a petition and are considering an appeal to the Chancellor of the Diocese of Worcester for legal permission to retain the stone.

Ms James said: "I have spoken to the young man who made the stone, this was a genuine mistake. I wrote to the vicar to ask if the church would overlook the fact the headstone does not meet church standards.

"I feel it is a reasonable request but I understand the church does have to maintain standards in public places."

Archdeacon of Dudley, the venerable Fred Trethewey says he sympathises but leaving the gravestone alone is not an option.

He told the family: "Churchyards are places where lots of people with lots of different ways of grieving come to remember their loved ones.

"It would not be fair on others to make exceptions and permit bold and distinctive likenesses of people that mourning families attending adjacent graves might find insensitive."

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